Petraeus Quits; Evidence of Affair Was Found by FBI
By Michael D Shear
November 9, 2012
David H. Petraeus, the director of the CIA and one of America’s most decorated four-star generals, resigned on Friday after an FBI investigation uncovered evidence that he had been involved in an extramarital affair.
Mr. Petraeus issued a statement acknowledging the affair after President Obama accepted his resignation and it was announced by the C.I.A. The disclosure ended a triumphant re-election week for the president with an unfolding scandal.
Government officials said that the FBI began an investigation into a “potential criminal matter” several months ago that was not focused on Mr. Petraeus. In the course of their inquiry into whether a computer used by Mr. Petraeus had been compromised, agents discovered evidence of the relationship as well as other security concerns. About two weeks ago, F.B.I. agents met with Mr. Petraeus to discuss the investigation.
Administration and Congressional officials identified the woman as Paula Broadwell, the co-author of a biography of Mr. Petraeus. Her book, “All In: The Education of General David Petraeus,” was published this year. Ms. Broadwell could not be reached for comment.
Ms. Broadwell, a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, spent 15 years in the military, according to a biography that had appeared on her Web site. She spent extended periods of time with Mr. Petraeus in Afghanistan, interviewing him for her book, which grew out of a two-year research project for her doctoral dissertation and which she promoted on a high-profile tour that included an appearance on “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart.”
Married with two children, she has described Mr. Petraeus as her mentor.
Senior members of Congress were alerted to Mr. Petraeus’s impending resignation by intelligence officials about six hours before the CIA announced it. One Congressional official who was briefed on the matter said that Mr. Petraeus had been encouraged “to get out in front of the issue” and resign, and that he agreed.
As for how the affair came to light, the Congressional official said that “it was portrayed to us that the FBI was investigating something else and came upon him. My impression is that the FBI stumbled across this.”
The FBI did not inform the Senate and House Intelligence Committees about the inquiry until this week, according to Congressional officials, who noted that by law the panels — and especially their chairmen and ranking members — are supposed to be told about significant developments in the intelligence arena. The Senate committee plans to pursue the question of why it was not told, one official said.
The revelation of a secret inquiry into the head of the nation’s premier spy agency raised urgent questions about Mr. Petraeus’s 14-month tenure at the CIA and the decision by Mr. Obama to elevate him to head the agency after leading the country’s war effort in Afghanistan. White House officials said they did not know about the affair until this week, when Mr. Petraeus informed them.
“After being married for over 37 years, I showed extremely poor judgment by engaging in an extramarital affair,” Mr. Petraeus said in his statement, expressing regret for his abrupt departure. “Such behavior is unacceptable, both as a husband and as the leader of an organization such as ours. This afternoon, the president graciously accepted my resignation.”
Mr. Petraeus’s admission and resignation represent a remarkable fall from grace for one of the most prominent figures in America’s modern military and intelligence community, a commander who helped lead the nation’s wartime activities in the decade after the Sept. 11 attacks and was credited with turning around the failing war effort in Iraq.
Mr. Petraeus almost single-handedly forced a profound evolution in the country’s military thinking and doctrine with his philosophy of counterinsurgency, focused more on protecting the civilian population than on killing enemies. More than most of his flag officer peers, he understood how to navigate Washington politics and news media, helping him rise through the ranks and obtain resources he needed, although fellow Army leaders often resented what they saw as a grasping careerism.
“To an important degree, a generation of officers tried to pattern themselves after Petraeus,” said Stephen Biddle, a military scholar at George Washington University who advised Mr. Petraeus at times. “He was controversial; a lot of people didn’t like him. But everybody looked at him as the model of what a modern general was to be.”
Obama did not accept his resignation right away. “He told him, ‘I’ll think about it overnight,’ ” the administration official said. After months on the road, the disclosure of a career-killing extramarital affair from his larger-than-life CIA director was the last thing that Mr. Obama was expecting, the official said.
The president, officials said, did not want Mr. Petraeus to leave. But he ultimately decided that he would not lean heavily on him to stay. On Friday, he called Mr. Petraeus and accepted the resignation, “agreeing with Petraeus’s judgment that he couldn’t continue to lead the agency.”
“Teddy Roosevelt once observed that life’s greatest gift is the opportunity to work hard at work worth doing,” he said. “I will always treasure my opportunity to have done that with you, and I will always regret the circumstances that brought that work with you to an end.”
Under Mr. Bush, Mr. Petraeus was credited for helping to develop and put in place the “surge” in troops in Iraq that helped wind down the war there. Petraeus was moved to Afghanistan in 2010 after Obama fired Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal over comments he made to a reporter.
How Did FBI Discover the Affair?
High-level officials at the FBI and the Justice Department were notified in the late summer that FBI agents had uncovered what appeared to be an extramarital affair involving David H. Petraeus. But law enforcement officials did not notify anyone outside the FBI or the Justice Department because the investigation was incomplete and initial concerns about possible security breaches, which would demand more immediate action, did not appear to be justified, the officials said.
The new accounts of the events that led to Petraeus’s sudden resignation shed light on the competing pressures facing FBI agents who recognized the high stakes of any investigation involving the CIA director but who were wary of exposing a private affair with no criminal or security implications. For the first time the woman whose report of harassing e-mails led to the exposure of the affair was identified as Jill Kelley, 37, of Tampa, Florida.
Some members of Congress have protested the delay in being notified of the FBI’s investigation of Petraeus until just after the presidential election. Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California and the chairwoman of the Intelligence Committee, said that her committee would “absolutely” demand an explanation. An FBI case involving the CIA director “could have had an effect on national security,” she said on “Fox News Sunday.” “I think we should have been told.”
But the bureau’s history would make the privacy question especially significant; in his decades-long reign as the FBI’s first director, J. Edgar Hoover sometimes directed agents to spy improperly on the sex lives of public figures and then used the resulting information to pressure or blackmail them.
Law enforcement officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the delicacy of the investigation, defended the FBI’s handling of the case. “There are a lot of sensitivities in a case like this,” said a senior law enforcement official. “There were hints of possible intelligence and security issues, but they were unproven. You constantly ask yourself, ‘What are the notification requirements? What are the privacy issues?’ ”
A close friend of the Petraeus family said that the intimate relationship between Petraeus and his biographer, Paula Broadwell, began after he retired from the military in 2011 and about two months after he started as CIA director. It ended about four months ago. In a letter to the CIA work force, Petraeus acknowledged having the affair. Ms. Broadwell has not responded to repeated requests for comment.
Under military regulations, adultery can be a crime. At the CIA, it can be a security issue, since it can make an intelligence officer vulnerable to blackmail, but it is not a crime.
The same Petraeus family friend confirmed the identity of Ms. Kelley, whose complaint to the F.B.I. about “harassing” e-mails, eventually traced to Ms. Broadwell, set the initial investigation in motion several months ago. Ms. Kelley and her husband became friends with Mr. Petraeus and his wife, Holly, when Petraeus was head of the military’s Central Command, which has its headquarters at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa. Ms. Kelley, who volunteers to help injured service members and military families at MacDill, has been photographed with the Petraeuses at social events in Tampa.
“We and our family have been friends with General Petraeus and his family for over five years,” Ms. Kelley and her husband, Scott Kelley, said in a statement. “We respect his and his family’s privacy, and want the same for us and our three children.”
The statement did not acknowledge that it was Ms. Kelley who received the e-mails, which was first reported by The Associated Press.
The involvement of the FBI, according to government officials, began when Ms. Kelley, alarmed by about half a dozen anonymous e-mails accusing her of inappropriate flirtatious behavior with Petraeus, complained to an FBI agent who is also a personal friend. That agent, who has not been identified, helped get a preliminary inquiry started. Agents working with federal prosecutors in a local United States attorney’s office began trying to figure out whether the e-mails constituted criminal cyber-stalking.
Because the sender’s account had been registered anonymously, investigators had to use forensic techniques — including a check of what other e-mail accounts had been accessed from the same computer address — to identify who was writing the e-mails.
Eventually they identified Ms. Broadwell as a prime suspect and obtained access to her regular e-mail account. In its in-box, they discovered intimate and sexually explicit e-mails from another account that also was not immediately identifiable. Investigators eventually ascertained that it belonged to Petraeus and studied the possibility that someone had hacked into Petraeus’s account or was posing as him to send the explicit messages.
Eventually they determined that Petraeus had indeed sent the messages to Ms. Broadwell and concluded that the two had had an affair. Then they turned their scrutiny on him, examining whether he knew about or was involved in sending the harassing e-mails to Ms. Kelley.
It was at that point — sometime in the late summer — that lower-level Justice Department officials notified supervisors that the case had become more complicated, and the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section began working on the investigation as well.
It remains unclear whether the FBI also gained access to Petraeus’s personal e-mail account, or if it relied only on e-mails discovered in Ms. Broadwell’s in-box. It also remains uncertain exactly when the information about Petraeus reached Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. and Robert S. Mueller III, the F.B.I. director. Both men have declined to comment.
But under the Attorney General Guidelines that govern domestic law enforcement officials, agents must notify FBI headquarters and the Department of Justice whenever they are looking at a “sensitive investigative matter,” which includes cases “involving the activities of a domestic public official.”
FBI agents interviewed Ms. Broadwell for the first time the week of Oct. 21, and she acknowledged the affair, a government official briefed on the matter said. She also voluntarily gave the agency her computer. In a search, the agents discovered several classified documents, which raised the additional question of whether Petraeus had given them to her. She said that he had not. Agents interviewed Petraeus the following week. He also admitted to the affair but said he had not given any classified documents to her. The agents then interviewed Ms. Broadwell again on Friday, Nov. 2, the official said.
Based on that record, law enforcement officials decided there was no evidence that Petraeus had committed any crime and tentatively ruled out charges coming out of the investigation, the official said. Because the facts had now been settled, the agency notified James R. Clapper, the director of national intelligence, about 5 p.m. on the following Tuesday — Election Day.
Meanwhile, the FBI agent who had helped get a preliminary inquiry started, and learned of Petraeus’s affair and the initial concerns about security breaches, became frustrated. Apparently unaware that those concerns were largely resolved, the agent alerted the office of Representative Eric Cantor, Republican of Virginia, the House majority leader, about the inquiry in late October. Mr. Cantor passed on the agent’s concerns to Mr. Mueller.
Officials said that the timing of the notifications had nothing to do with the election, noting that there was no obvious political advantage for either President Obama or Mitt Romney in the news that the CIA director had had an affair; Petraeus is highly regarded by both Republicans and Democrats. They also said that Mr. Cantor’s call to the FBI on Oct. 31 had not accelerated or otherwise influenced the investigation, which they said had never stalled.
FBI and Justice Department officials knew their handling of the case would ultimately receive immense scrutiny and took significant time to determine whom they were legally required to inform, according to a senior law enforcement official.
“This was very thought-through,” the official said.
The law requires that the Senate and House intelligence committees be kept “fully and currently informed” of intelligence activities, which conceivably might cover an investigation into a possible compromise of the C.I.A. director’s e-mail account and the possession of classified documents by Ms. Broadwell.
But Justice Department and FBI rules, designed to protect the integrity of investigations and the privacy of people who come under scrutiny, say that investigators should not share potentially damaging information about unproved allegations or private matters unless it is critical for the investigation.
Glenn A. Fine, the inspector general for the Justice Department from 2000 to 2011, said it appeared that the FBI was “legitimately following a lead” about possible criminal wrongdoing or a security breach.
“Some have said the FBI was out to get the CIA,” said Mr. Fine, who is now a partner at the law firm Dechert LLP in Washington. “That might have been true 20 years ago. But it is hard to believe that is going on today.”
John Prados, a historian and an author on intelligence and its abuses, said the case “posed several dilemmas for the FBI” that would have prompted agents and their bosses to proceed gingerly.
“Petraeus is a very important person, so they would want to be crystal clear on exactly what happened and what the implications were,” Mr. Prados said. “There was probably a sense that it had to be taken to top bureau officials. And bureau officials probably thought they had better tell the White House and Congress and the D.N.I., or they might get in trouble later,” he added, referring to the director of national intelligence.
But if the security issues were resolved and no crime had been committed, Mr. Prados said, there was no justification for informing Congress or other agencies that Mr. Petraeus had had an affair.
“In my view, it should never have been briefed outside the bureau,” he said.
Adultery, an Ancient Crime That Remains on Many Books
By Ethan Bronner/ November 14, 2012
Peraeus’ resignation following the adultery charges are widely understood to be acknowledging a misdeed, not a crime. Yet in his state of residence, Virginia, as in 22 others, adultery remains a criminal act, a vestige of the way American law has anchored legitimate sexual activity within marriage.
In most of those states, including New York, adultery is a misdemeanor. But in others — Idaho, Massachusetts, Michigan, Oklahoma and Wisconsin — it is a felony, though rarely prosecuted. In the armed forces, it can be punished severely although usually in combination with a greater wrongdoing.
This is yet another example of American exceptionalism: in nearly the entire rest of the industrialized world, adultery is not covered by the criminal code.
Like other state laws related to sex — sodomy, fornication, rape — adultery laws extend back to the Old Testament, onetime capital offenses stemming at least partly from a concern about male property. Peter Nicolas of the University of Washington Law School says the term stemmed from the notion of “adulterating” or polluting the bloodline of a family when a married woman had sex with someone other than her husband and ran the risk of having another man’s child.
Linda C. McClain, who teaches family law at Boston University, likes to give her students two decisions from New Jersey courts, the first from 1838 and the second from 1992, to demonstrate how things have changed.
In the 1838 decision, the court said that the harm of adultery lay not in “the alienation of the wife’s affections, and loss of comfort in her company,” but in “its tendency to adulterate the issue of an innocent husband, and to turn the inheritance away from his own blood, to that of a stranger.”
In the 1992 ruling, in a civil case, the court said, “Adultery exists when one spouse rejects the other by entering into a personal intimate sexual relationship with any other person.” It said it was “the rejection of the spouse coupled with out-of-marriage intimacy that constitutes adultery.”
Most states have purged their codes of laws regulating cohabitation, homosexual sodomy and fornication — sex between unmarried adults — especially after a 2003 Supreme Court decision in Lawrence v. Texas, which made sexual activity by consenting adults in private legal across the country. But the question of how that ruling affects adultery remains unanswered because others may be harmed by adultery — a spouse and children. Several courts have alluded to the constitutionality of adultery laws since the Lawrence decision.
But Melissa Murray, a professor of law at the University of California, Berkeley, said she thought “most courts in light of Lawrence are going to give adultery a wide berth.”
Professor Murray added: “It is an open question whether adultery continues to be viable as criminal law even though it remains on the books in 24 states and territories. Nobody is going to be going to jail for it. But it is used in divorce and custody cases and even in some employment cases.”
A number of law professors, including Joanna L. Grossman of Hofstra University, said one reason that adultery laws remain on the books is that getting rid of them would require politicians to declare their opposition to them, something few would do. In addition, many like the idea of the criminal code serving as a kind of moral guide even if certain laws are almost never applied.
Petraeus is a retired four-star general who collects a military pension and remains subject to military codes of conduct that prohibit adultery. But Diane H. Mazur, a professor of law at the University of Florida and a former Air Force officer, said that the chances of the Army’s calling Petraeus back to active service in order to court-martial him over adultery are zero, as are any chances of state criminal charges’ being brought.
“That would be reserved for the most unimaginably serious circumstances,” Professor Mazur said. Even within the military code, she added, adultery is charged as a criminal offense only when “the conduct of the accused was to the prejudice of good order and discipline in the armed forces,” she read from the manual for courts-martial. That meant something larger than seemed at stake here.
Professor Murray said her research had led her to conclude that laws regulating sex emanated from a notion that sex should occur only within marriage. Criminal law, she said, was there to reinforce marriage as the legal locus for sex. So any other circumstance — sex in public or with a member of the same sex, or adultery — was a violation of marriage. “Now we live in an age when sex is not limited to marriage and laws are slowly responding to that,” she said. “But we still love marriage. Nobody is going to say adultery is O.K.”
Petraeus Predecessor Had Hundreds of Adulterous Affairs
By Stephen Kinzer/ November 10, 2012
Walking through the lobby of the CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, after handing in his resignation on Friday, David H. Petraeus passed a bas-relief sculpture of Allen Dulles, who led the agency in the 1950s and early ’60s. Below it is the motto, “His Monument Is Around Us.”
Both men ran the CIA during some of its most active years, Dulles during the early cold war and Mr. Petraeus during the era of drone strikes and counterinsurgency operations. And both, it turns out, had high-profile extramarital affairs.
But private life for a CIA director today is apparently quite different from what it was in the Dulles era. Mr. Petraeus resigned after admitting to a single affair; Allen Dulles had, as his sister, Eleanor, wrote later, “at least a hundred.”
Indeed, the contrast between Dulles’s story and that of Mr. Petraeus reflects how fully the life of public servants has changed in the United States.
Dulles ran the agency from 1953 to 1961, and he had a profound effect on America’s role in the cold war. Together with his brother, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, he exercised enormous power and helped overthrow governments from Iran to Guatemala to Congo.
He was also a serial adulterer. Dulles was married in 1920, but he and his wife, Clover, had a difficult home life. She was sensitive and introverted, while he was handsome and charming — and a skilled seducer.
His affairs were legendary. The writer Rebecca West, asked once whether she had been one of his girlfriends, famously replied, “Alas, no, but I wish I had been.”
For most of the 1920 and ’30s, Dulles worked with his brother at the Wall Street law firm of Sullivan & Cromwell. He often took extended foreign trips, and the letters he wrote home to Clover were full of references to other women that could at best be read as insensitive, at worst as taunting.
In one he wrote of a night out with “an attractive (not beautiful) Irish-French female whom I took to Scheherazade, where we stayed until the early hours.” In another, the subject was a “rather good-looking” English woman with whom he “danced and drank champagne until quite late.”
Other women he reported meeting included “a charming widow,” “a most pleasant companion,” “a young English damsel,” “a very delightful person” and “a sensible soul, also by no means ugly.”
After one Atlantic crossing he proudly wrote to Clover that “on the whole I have kept rather free from any entanglements, and in particular there have been no ladies on board with whom I have particularly consorted.”
As if to pour salt in her emotional wounds, Dulles wrote in another letter that he didn’t “deserve as good a wife as I have, as I am rather too fond of the company of other ladies.”
During World War II, Dulles ran American espionage operations in neutral Switzerland. Soon after arriving in Bern, he found a mistress, Mary Bancroft, a dynamic woman of the world who had grown up on Beacon Hill in Boston under the wing of her doting step-grandfather, C. W. Barron, publisher of The Wall Street Journal.
Dulles hired Bancroft to write political analysis, but there was little doubt where his interest lay.
“We can let the work cover the romance, and the romance cover the work,” he told her as they began their affair.
By her own account, Bancroft developed “overwhelming admiration for his abilities” and fell “completely in love” with him. Later Dulles introduced her to his wife. Somehow, they became close friends. “I can see how much you and Allen care for one another, and I approve,” the wife told the mistress.
Dulles was 60 years old when he took over the C.I.A., and had slowed down a bit. Nonetheless, he was rumored to have become familiar with one of the highest-profile women of the era, Clare Booth Luce, the wife of Henry R. Luce, the publisher of Time and Life (who in turn was said to be keeping company with Mary Bancroft).
Another of Dulles’s conquests, according to several accounts, was Queen Frederika of Greece. In 1958 she came to the United States on a tour with her son, the future King Constantine II, and just as her trip was about to end, she announced without explanation that she would stay for another week.
She came to Washington, discussed “spiritual values” with President Dwight D. Eisenhower in the Oval Office and then visited Dulles at C.I.A. headquarters.
They had been alone in his office for nearly an hour when an aide knocked. Hearing no response, he entered. He found the office empty, but heard noises from the adjoining dressing room. Later Dulles and the queen emerged.
As she was being driven back to the Greek Embassy, the queen suggested one reason Greek-American relations were so strong. “We just love that man!” she exclaimed.
Dulles’s behavior was well known in Washington and elsewhere, but never publicly reported. By the journalistic codes of the 1950s, it was not newsworthy.
The same code applied to Dulles’s superiors. Presidents Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy entrusted the security of the United States to him. What Dulles did in his private life, even when it intersected with his public role, was considered none of their business.
Allen Dulles, who died in 1969, may have been, as one biographer claimed, “the greatest intelligence officer who ever lived.” Yet by today’s standards, this master spy would not have been allowed even to join the C.I.A., much less lead it.
Stephen Kinzer, a former correspondent for The New York Times, is the author of the forthcoming book “The Brothers: John Foster Dulles, Allen Dulles, and Their Secret World War.”
Hacking General Petraeus
By Joe Nocera/ November 16, 2012
We are now entering the second phase of the David Petraeus scandal. The first phase began on Nov. 9 when Petraeus revealed that he had had an affair and resigned as CIA director. For the next week, the press scrambled to keep abreast of every head-spinning new plot twist. General Petraeus slept with whom? Jill Kelley did what? Petraeus’s biographer/mistress titled her book what? Phase 1 of any big national scandal ends when the New York tabloids stop writing their laugh-out-loud cover headlines (“Cloak and Shag Her” screamed The New York Post) and relegate the story to the inside pages.
In Phase 2, people begin to grapple with the scandal’s larger meaning, assuming, of course, that it has some larger meaning. The sordid John Edwards affair, for instance, showed that he had never been fit for public office, much less the vice presidency. The Bernie Madoff scandal showed that investors will happily suspend disbelief when their fund manager’s returns are too good to be true.
But the Petraeus scandal could well end up teaching some very different lessons. If the most admired military man in a generation can have his e-mail hacked by F.B.I. agents, then none of us are safe from the post-9/11 surveillance machine. And if an affair is all it takes to force such a man from office, then we truly have lost all sense of proportion.
Let’s go back to the scene of the so-called crime, to Tampa, Fla., where Kelley, an attractive wannabe socialite, gets some unsettling e-mails from an anonymous sender. If she had any sense, she would block the e-mail address and be done with it. But because she knows that men will bend the rules for her — after all, high-ranking military officers granted her unfettered access to MacDill Air Force Base — she goes to her (male) FBI friend, who advocates with his superiors for an investigation. They agree.
But on what grounds? I looked up the cyber-stalking statute. It says that a crime has been committed when e-mail “causes substantial emotion distress” or places the victim in “reasonable fear of death or serious bodily injury.”
This strikes me as a pretty high standard. It is possible, I suppose, that the anonymous e-mails Kelley was getting from Paula Broadwell, Petraeus’s former mistress, met that standard. And the FBI has worked hard to make Broadwell’s e-mails sound as threatening as possible. But once they leak out, as they surely will, I strongly suspect that we’ll see that the law was just a fig leaf.
So, too, with the “classified information” Broadwell is supposed to have. (And didn’t you love the FBI’s big show of carting away her computers?) Given the government’s propensity, since 9/11, to stamp “classified” on every piece of paper short of the paper towels in the commissary, my guess is that this claim is also going to turn out to be less than earth-shattering. Once the F.B.I. learned the truth — that it was just about sex — it needed a high-minded rationale to keep snooping. Broadwell did the F.B.I. a huge favor by leaving “classified” information on her computer.
I understand why Petraeus felt he needed to resign; the affair had violated his own code of honor. I also understand that his propensity for publicity and control made him unpopular among the C.I.A. rank-and-file. But I still wish President Obama had refused his request to resign.
I wish the president had said that although General Petraeus had made a mistake in his personal life — an all-too-human mistake, made by millions of people every day — the consequences of that mistake should be dealt with by him, his wife and his former lover. I wish he had said that the affair should not trump his decades of public service, or stop him from continuing to serve. I wish he had said that the Justice Department’s inspector general was going to conduct an inquiry into whether the F.B.I. had acted appropriately in handling Kelley’s complaint.
On MSNBC, Andrea Mitchell spoke to Senator Roy Blunt, a Republican from Missouri, who had just come from a closed-door Intelligence Committee meeting where Petraeus had testified.
“Do you think he had to resign?” she asked.
“Based on what I know, I wouldn’t think so,” Blunt replied. “Clearly,” he added, “this is not someone who is going to be subject to blackmail.” Thus did Blunt swat away the one legitimate rationale for forcing Petraeus from his job because of his affair.
In the weeks to come, a lot more people are going to come to the same conclusion — and are going to ask the same questions about the ease with which the government can look at our e-mails and peep into our bedrooms. Such a rethinking is long overdue.
The FBI investigation that led to the sudden resignation of David H. Petraeus began with a complaint several months ago about “harassing” e-mails sent by Paula Broadwell.
When FBI. agents following up on the complaint began to examine Ms. Broadwell’s e-mails, they discovered exchanges between her and Mr. Petraeus that revealed that they were having an affair, said several officials who spoke of the investigation on the condition of anonymity. They also discovered that Ms. Broadwell possessed certain classified information, one official said, but apparently concluded that it was probably not Mr. Petraeus who had given it to her and that there had been no major breach of security. No leak charges are expected to be filed as a result of the investigation.
The identity of the woman who complained about the harassing messages from Ms. Broadwell has not been disclosed. She was not a family member or in the government, the officials said, and the nature of her relationship with Petraeus was not immediately known. But they said the two women seemed to be competing for Petraeus’s loyalty, if not his affection.
One Congressional official who was briefed on the matter said senior intelligence officials explained that the F.B.I. investigation “started with two women” — evidently Ms. Broadwell and the woman who complained about her e-mails. “It didn’t start with Petraeus, but in the course of the investigation they stumbled across him,” said the Congressional official. “We were stunned.”
Ms. Broadwell has made no statement since the affair became public on Friday, and attempts to reach her for comment have been unsuccessful.
The circumstances surrounding the collapse of Petraeus’s career remain murky. It is not clear when Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. or Robert S. Mueller III, the director of the F.B.I., became aware that the F.B.I.’s investigation into Ms. Broadwell’s e-mails had brought to light compromising information about Petraeus. Tracy Schmaler, a spokeswoman for Mr. Holder, declined to comment Saturday.
Neither the Congressional Intelligence Committees nor the White House learned of the investigation or the link to Petraeus until last week, officials said. Neither did Petraeus’s boss, James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence.
A senior intelligence official said Saturday that Mr. Clapper had learned of Petraeus’s situation only when the F.B.I. notified him, about 5 p.m. on Tuesday, election night. That evening and the next day, the official said, the two men discussed the situation, and Mr. Clapper told Petraeus “that he thought the right thing to do would be to resign,” the intelligence official said.
Mr. Clapper notified the president’s senior national security staff late Wednesday that Petraeus was considering resigning because of an extramarital affair, the official said.
The decisions on when to notify various administration officials, including Mr. Clapper on Tuesday, were “a judgment call consistent with policies and procedures,” according to one of the government officials who had been briefed.
If the investigation had uncovered serious security breaches or other grave problems, he said, the notifications would have been immediate. As it was, however, the matter seemed to involve private relationships with little implication for national security.
Some Congressional staff members said they believed that the bureau should have informed at least the Republican and Democratic leaders of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees about the unfolding inquiry. A spokesman for Representative Mike Rogers, a Michigan Republican who heads the House Intelligence Committee, said the lawmaker had summoned Sean Joyce, the F.B.I.’s deputy director, and Michael J. Morrell, the deputy CIA director, for closed briefings about the investigation.
Eric Cantor, the House majority leader, said an FBI employee whom his staff described as a whistle-blower told him about Petraeus’s affair and a possible security breach in late October, which was after the investigation had begun.
“I was contacted by an F.B.I. employee concerned that sensitive, classified information may have been compromised and made certain Director Mueller was aware of these serious allegations and the potential risk to our national security,” Mr. Cantor said in a statement.
Mr. Cantor talked to the person after being told by Representative Dave Reichert, Republican of Washington, that a whistle-blower wanted to speak to someone in the Congressional leadership about a national security concern. On Oct. 31, his chief of staff, Steve Stombres, called the F.B.I. to tell them about the call.
“They took the information,” said Doug Heye, Mr. Cantor’s deputy chief of staff, “and gave the standard answer: they were not able to confirm or deny any investigation, but said that all necessary steps were being taken to make sure no confidential information was at risk.”
White House officials said they were informed that Petraeus was considering resigning because of an extramarital affair. Just before a staff meeting at the White House, President Obama was told.
That afternoon, Petraeus went to see him and informed him that he strongly believed he had to resign. Mr. Obama did not accept his resignation right away, but on Friday, he called Petraeus and accepted it.
Petraeus, 60, said in a statement that he was resigning after 14 months as head of the Central Intelligence Agency because he had shown “extremely poor judgment” in engaging in the affair. He has been married for 38 years.
Ms. Broadwell, 40, is also married. She and her husband have two children and live in Charlotte, N.C.
The two government officials who had been briefed on the case dismissed a range of media speculation that the FBI inquiry might have focused on leaks of classified information to the news media or even foreign spying. “People think that because it’s the CIA director, it must involve bigger issues,” one official said. “Think of a small circle of people who know each other.”
The FBI investigators were not pursuing evidence of Petraeus’s marital infidelity, which would not be a criminal matter, the official said. But their examination of his e-mails, most or all of them sent from a personal account and not from his CIA account, raised the possibility of security breaches that needed to be addressed directly with him.
“Alarms went off on larger security issues,” the official said. As a result, FBI agents spoke with the C.I.A. director about two weeks ago, and Petraeus learned in the discussion, if he was not already aware, that they knew of his affair with Ms. Broadwell, the official said.
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